The Colonials took the field against top-ranked Massachusetts Friday in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament and saw the Minutewomen explode immediately on a 5-0 scoring run.
By halftime, GW (10-7, 4-3) managed to put just three in the net, while Massachusetts added five more scores to go up by seven. After the break, the Colonials were held scoreless, unable to convert opportunities into points, and the Minutewomen claimed a 17-3 victory.
Head coach Tara Hannaford said the Colonials, who were seeded fourth entering the postseason, did not bring their strongest transition play to the field. The team, unable to effectively control possession, she said, handed Massachusetts a significant advantage.
“It’s definitely not how we wanted to come out here today. I think we really thought we had a chance if we could control possession,” Hannaford said. “Our defense played well, our offense played well, but our transition game really suffered today, and we kind of gave [Massachusetts] a couple more opportunities than we would have liked to.”
The biggest key for GW’s success against Massachusetts was measured in draw controls, a statistic Hannaford said she emphasized before the game. Beating the Minutewomen to the ball would be a crucial aspect of play, but GW was unable to maintain a solid handle on the starts of play, winning only 10 of 22 draw controls of the day.
Senior Casey Disharoon was the first to put GW on the board, scoring an unassisted goal on a free position at the 19:28 mark. Massachusetts scored two more before senior Megan Seidman, assisted by Disharoon and freshman Addi Bolin, scored back-to-back goals just 33 seconds apart.
Seidman’s scores would be the last time GW would find the back of the net in the game. The Colonials continued to push throughout the rest of play, but tallied only five shots, picking up seven ground balls in the second half.
The team wanted to fight, Hannaford said, despite the crushing play Massachusetts brought to the field.
“The bottom line is they wanted to work hard, and they wanted to go out as best as they possibly could, even though the game didn’t go our way,” Hannaford said. “This group of girls always works hard, and I don’t expect anything different from them.”
Disharoon and Seidman, who paced GW’s offense during the game, represented the Colonials’ graduating members with the strongest performance on the day.
The Colonials’ seniors, including Emily Perling, Sarah Phillips and Hilary Quinn, qualified for the A-10 tournament their freshman season, and played through the three years GW was locked out of postseason play. Their continued effort was crucial to eventually ensuring the team’s return to the tournament, Hannaford said.
“I’m really proud of our seniors and their leadership. They’ve been through a lot with our program, and I really feel like they’re leaving this program in good hands, and have done a really good job. I couldn’t be happier for them,” Hannaford said.
With play wrapped on the 2012 season, Hannaford is looking to build on this year’s performance in the upcoming season. Returning to the A-10 tournament was a big step for GW, she said, and the team’s close, hard-fought victories over tough opponents during the regular season show its roster’s growth.
The team can only continue to get stronger, Hannaford added, and the head coach already has a clear direction in mind.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more explosive in our midfield. We’d like to play a little bit higher tempo on the defense,” she said. “So that’s something we’re going to continue to try to build in our program.”